Kamarathin : Kingdom of Tursh Review
Kamarathin: Kingdom of Tursh is a fantasy setting book written for the HERO 5th Edition Revised rules and published by D3 Games. This review is based on the PDF version purchased through Drive Thru RPG. The PDF is 250 pages in length, with the first and last page taken up by attractive full-color graphics. Interior graphics are all well done. Text is somewhat plain, but there are very few typos.
I wrote this review in a chapter by chapter format with some final thoughts posted at the end.
+ An engaging setting book with a strong campaign background. Rules for magic and religion are compelling and intertwine with the setting's cosmology. Detailed and interesting package deals for just about any occasion. Extension packages.
- Tight character point accounting between race and professional archetype packages may lead to cookie cutter characters and some combinations are not possible at base points. No character sheet included, given that the HERO system rules are slightly altered.
I give it a overall Good rating.
Chapter 1: Kingdom of Tursh
This chapter covers a general history of the setting, delving more specifically into how this relates to the titular kingdom itself. Further, it explains the history and social conditions of each of the individual duchies that make up Tursh. Added details about the seasons, calendar, money and a miscellany of other really useful information easily makes this chapter my favorite of the whole book.
One thing I noticed is that the text of the chapter strongly reads like it was written for a human only game. I personally have wanted to play in such a game, so I think this is a fantastic thing. With each section, the background written into the setting just opens the door to many types of fantasy stories/adventure ideas. You see, I relate to a setting by how naturally it lends itself to telling stories. So yes, stories. In my case, political intrigue, fantasy horror, and even a few old school dungeon crawls literally jumped out at me. The fact that the background information inspires so much is a good thing and something that I have missed in some of the other setting books I've read lately.
Chapter 2: Religion
I know that any fantasy setting is going to come with the whole divine cosmology thing. I rarely like these chapters but I realize that the cosmology is often an intrinsic part of the campaign. Kamarathin: Kingdom of Tursh actually defies my normal tendency to pre-judge; at least a little.
The chapter breaks down each of the major spiritual belief systems in the setting and some that are no longer an everyday occurrence. The baseline belief is centered around spirits and each religion has an individual take on how the world and the spirit world interact. This is, of course, a gross over-simplification, but I don't want to give too much away. As it stands, I find the concepts appealing to varying degrees. Some of the ideas are similar to ones that I have had, so it was easy to relate to the information. If anything, I think there was too much breadth to the Religions chapter and not enough depth into any one of the belief systems. There is a lot of unexplored potential here that is both exciting and frustrating. You want to be able to flesh out the system a little bit yet you don't want to contradict anything that may be forthcoming in future publications. What I would really have loved to see more of is some sort of magic system that deals with the direct interaction between the caster and spirits.
Priestly magic from the religious dogma of the Asunites to the shamans of the goblin people to the druids of the Old Faith are all detailed in this chapter. Package deals and magical abilities are both described. This is an interesting take that allows the reader to contextually "sink their teeth" into the HERO system mechanics of the setting in easily digestible chunks.
The Asunite Prayers is probably my favorite faith system detailed in this chapter. The prayers are essentially spells that are gleaned from the Asunite holy texts. Along with each mechanical write-up is the verse associated with it. Not only does this add to the flavor of the setting, there is enough room for additional prayers to be added later.
Chapter 3: Surrounding Kingdoms
Just as the title states, this chapter focuses on the neighboring kingdoms that share the world with Tursh. As you might guess, the amount of detail is just enough to give you a rough idea and nowhere near enough to feel fleshed out. Being that this book is focused on the Kingdom of Tursh, I'm okay with that. Don't get me wrong, the rough idea is enough for a few "across the border" adventures. An idea about one of the other cultures has got me thinking adventure idea; something that happens often with this book.
I do hope that sales will be high enough to justify additional kingdom books in the future.
Chapter 4: Magic
I can only say "Wow" at this chapter. There are two basic systems described; Atharian Magic and Sanguinary Magic. Both systems are uniquely tied to the setting and very interesting in both presentation and game mechanical application.
Atharian Magic ties together concept of Elemental Magic and the Astrology of the setting. While unique, it has shades of Hermetic Magic tied into it. Without copying and pasting the whole chapter here, I could never do this flavorful and compelling system of magic the proper justice. I can only hope that I can find a GM who would be willing to run this setting for me so I could experiment with this magic system.
Sanguinary Magic works on the principle of using ones blood to fuel physical enhancing spells. Again, there is a lot of background/setting flavor that is wound up in the description. While I am not quite so excited about this one as the Atharian Magic system, it is still a compelling and interesting tradition of magic.
This chapter is very expansive and includes full write-ups for both magic systems and the package deals associated with them. With the Atharian magic, "expansive" is an understatement. A vast amount of background information regarding the philosophy behind the tradition is included. Package deals for those born under different signs are also detailed in this chapter.
Chapter 5: Character Creation
Six racial templates. Seven cultural packages (one for each race except humans who have two). A whole bunch career of packages. Not much to say there. Each one of these packages does an admirable job of bringing the setting to the character sheet. This is more fun to put into play than to read, being mostly a bookkeeping thing. Buyer beware that not all race/professions mix. For instance, the dragon folk cannot choose some of the higher cost packages. This can be remedied by choosing a higher amount of base points, but that adds a whole new challenge and dynamic to the game. I imagine that some will raise the point that packaging the characters with such tight point balances will lead to "cookie cutter" characters. I tend to agree that starting characters will tend to look very similar. Post creation Experience awards will go a long way into fleshing out the individual
What I do like about this chapter is the filler packages that add specific skillsets to other packages. Fine, you are an Asunite priest. But what else are you? Well these packages add things like maritime skills or mounted combat skills in neat little extension packages. While a simple concept, it is nicely executed here.
An interesting concept that I would like to explore, is dividing DEX into three other characteristics. That and a few tweaks to the skills here and there make for an interesting alternative to the standard HERO experience.
This chapter rounds out with some Combat Tricks that look for all the world like D&D-esque feats, and an expansive equipment list.
Appendix 1: Character Name Samples
A chart of common names divided by race. Always a handy resource when delving into somebody else's imaginary world. Kudos for including this.
I was initially put off by the typeface used for most of the text entries. In a word; boring, As I read through the book, boring became "easy to read." By the end, I was glad the text wasn't weighted down with some sort of fantasy typeface that would be hard as heck to read.
Art in the book was moderate to very good. I do not recall seeing any pieces that were of poor quality. While most HERO gamers are mature, be warned that there are a couple of pictures that show female anatomy (breasts). Nothing wrong with that, but in case you are concerned about such things I figure it wouldn't hurt to point it out.
I love fantasy maps. The cartography in this book is awesome. It is nicely understated in almost a sepia tone with solid lines and clear imagery. While probably created in Photoshop or Gimp, the maps all look carefully hand drawn. That's a good thing in my opinion.
The deviation from the stock HERO rules almost requires a character sheet and/or Hero Designer files to be included and D3 games delivers on the latter. I suggest an alternate character sheet, preferably a fillable PDF or Excel file be posted to the D-3Games website for those who do not have access to Hero Designer. Honestly, my only real gripe about the whole product is the lack of a character sheet in the book; say as an appendix or something.
Honestly I bought this book (PDF version) to support a fellow HERO gamer. I really held no hope that this would be the one book that called out to me and said "This is your fantasy setting." So it was a surprise and real delight to get drawn further into the setting with each page I turned. Not too many novels can hold my attention for so long and so raptly these days.
This is truly a quality product. Every chapter builds upon the one before it to create a compelling and interesting game world. Adventure ideas, character ideas, even magic ideas came readily as I read through the first time. I felt comfortable and excited to be in this world, even though it is all in my head.
The one thing that some folks might consider lacking is the absence of NPC packages. I actually think that by not having a stat block to interrupt the text, I was more able to picture the characters better. With all the prefabricated packages included, whipping up an NPC should be no problem. With the available Hero Designer files on the D3 Games website, this becomes an even easier task.
Contrary to the sourcebook itself, I see this world being more humanocentric. In many ways, I feel as if the non-human races detract from the overall setting story. That is, of course, entirely a subjective opinion. Anybody considering this setting should read the book on its own merits and make their own decisions.
So go buy Kamarathin: Kingdom of Tursh. You'll thank yourself. You'll thank D3 Games.
Notice: Deleted original review and posted this one, which consists of some reorganization of ideas and general typo clean-up.